This red pesto pasta is such a comforting and delicious meal to make at home. Done in under 30 minutes, this weeknight pasta is fresh, comforting, delicious, better than store-bought, and so easy to make. It’s also easily made gluten free or vegan. Enjoy it on its own or paired with any protein or vegetables.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Ready in under 30 minutes – who doesn’t want dinner ready in under 30 minutes? No, but seriously, to have such a tasty pasta sauce in under 30 minutes is the best.
- Easy to make – it’s just a quick sauté, blend, and toss. That’s it! A huge bonus here: this sauce can be made ahead and is perfect for enjoying right away and/or meal prepping to save time on meals later!
- Versatile – add in any veggies or protein of choice to make this red pesto pasta even healthier. Some vegetables you can add: cauliflower, squash, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms. You’ll want to cut the vegetables into small pieces and cook them or roast them before adding them to the sauce. This dish can also be made gluten free and vegan if needed.
How to make red pesto pasta
In a small saucepan, add some oil on medium heat. Once hot, add in the garlic and pine nuts and sauté for 2-3 minutes until the garlic is translucent and lightly golden brown and pine nuts are fragrant, about 2-3 minutes (don’t let the pine nuts burn!). Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring often until it turns a darker shade.
In a food processor, add all the sauce ingredients minus the olive oil and water. Start to blend and gradually pour in the olive oil. Stop and open the food processor and check the consistency of your sauce. Start adding ¼ cup of water and add more as needed to achieve the desired consistency. Blend until smooth, taste and adjust.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to package directions. Cook until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water and drain. Turn off your heat, transfer your cooked pasta to a bowl and pour in the pesto sauce. Add and toss your cooked pasta with the sauce.
Serve with chopped basil leaves, chili flakes, and parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
Top tips for making red pesto pasta perfectly
- Salt the pasta water – this is pretty simple but makes a big impact on the overall dish and will ensure that it’s as flavorful as can be.
- Do not overheat the sauce – Pesto sauce should never be cooked. Cooking or overheating pesto sauce will burn the fresh basil and turn the sauce greasy. To create a perfect pesto pasta, toss the pasta in a bowl together with the sauce. The leftover heat from the pasta will warm the pesto. If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of pasta water. The starch from the pasta water will create the creamiest sauce.
More pasta recipes to try
How to store
Fridge: You can store pesto sauce in the fridge in a sealed container for up to five days. Warm the pesto lightly in the microwave (add a splash of water if needed to thin the sauce out), and then toss it with the cooked pasta. The hot pasta will be enough to warm the sauce.
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Easy Red Pesto Pasta
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 2–4 servings 1x
- 250 g pasta of choice (gluten free if needed)
- 1/2 cup pine nuts (or raw almonds, walnuts, pecans)
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, jarred or homemade
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp lemon juice (~juice of 1 lemon)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup pasta water, if needed
- Chili flakes
- Chopped basil leaves
- Parmesan cheese
- In a small saucepan, pour some olive oil on medium heat. When oil is hot, add in the sliced garlic and pine nuts. Cook, stirring frequently to avoid them from burning, until garlic is translucent and lightly golden brown and pine nuts are fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook, stirring often until it turns a darker shade, about 2 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes.
- In a food processor, add all the sauce ingredients minus the olive oil and pasta water. Start to blend and gradually pour in the oil. Blend until smooth (at this point, the pesto will appear rather thick, but we’ll thin it out with some pasta water later). Taste and adjust.
- In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water. Drain and transfer to a bowl.
- Pour the pesto into warm cooked pasta and toss. Add 2 tbsp of pasta water at a time to thin the sauce as necessary, and reach the desired consistency. Add in any cooked/roasted veggies or protein.
- Serve, and sprinkle with some red chili flakes, chopped basil, and parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
Make it gluten free: use gluten free pasta.
Make it vegan/dairy free: feel free to swap for nutritional yeast or just leave the parmesan cheese out. Either way, the sauce already has a lot of flavor.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
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